By Lyn Prowse-Bishop, MVA, ASO
As a successful Virtual Assistant, the question I am asked most frequently by new VAs is what is the one thing you wish you knew when you started. Without doubt, the answer is the power of niche marketing.
When starting out, most new businesses try to be all things to all people. This just is not feasible when you are running a business and leads to countless wasted hours – not to mention dollars – chasing clients and generally getting nowhere.
Niche marketing simply means choosing that one thing you are particularly skilled at, or the one industry you know most about, and then marketing that skill to that industry. As an industry grows – particularly, for example, the virtual assistant industry, with more operators starting up all the time – you will need to differentiate yourself from the countless others who are doing the same thing as you. What is it that sets you apart? What do you want to be known for?
For example, you may have spent a lot of your working life in a word-processing pool in a large law firm and decide you want to start up a Virtual Assistant practice. So your target market might then be legal, and your skill would be transcription. You would market legal transcription to law offices – perhaps you might further specialise within a particular area of the law (family, conveyancing, litigation); or you might target sole practitioners or barristers. In this way, when you head off to networking functions and are talking to prospective clients about what service you offer, you give that simple statement of your niche: “I provide specialist legal transcription services to sole practitioners”. Your goal is to be seen as one IN a million – not one OF a million.
At first this may seem like you are limiting your options for work but in fact the reverse often proves to be the case. Niching is the same as setting yourself apart from the crowd as a specialist in your field of expertise. This act of specialising tends to make us more appealing to people in general. And just because you decide to target one particular market with one particular skill, does not mean you cannot still do other things or service other areas of the community.
In addition, having a focused niche marketing plan means when you are making contacts, you are not confusing them with huge amounts of information, giving intricate details of all the types of things you can do. The contact loses interest very quickly in this situation. Giving a statement of your niche means the prospect has to do some of the work and make connections in their own mind as to what it is you do. Thus, there is more chance they will remember you than if you flood them with too much information. Using the above example, after stating your niche to a prospect you may be asked the question: “So tell me more about the type of transcription you do? Is it tape or digital?” You move then into a more general discussion about your service, and this contact – who may not be a lawyer at all – has just made a connection between you and a service (for example, report transcription) he might need himself.
You might be asked a totally different type of question: “So does that mean you can do spreadsheets too?” This contact has now stated what their need is and even though ‘spreadsheets’ was not in your statement of niche, you can let them know this IS something else you offer and can help them with.
By concentrating on your niche you are able to produce more focused marketing efforts and will not fall into the trap of throwing marketing dollars at every opportunity for very little return.
About the Author
Lyn Prowse-Bishop, MVA, ASO – Australia’s first certified Master Virtual Assistant (MVA), 2007 Business Achiever’s Award winner (Professional Services), and 2006 Thomas Leonard International VA of Distinction Award Nominee – is owner/manager of Executive Stress Office Support (eSOS), specialising in digital transcription, document production, internet-related marketing activities, and executive personal assistant services for clients around the world. One of Brisbane’s most respected virtual assistants, Lyn is also founder of the Australian Virtual Business Network (http://www.avbn.com.au/), is on the steering committee and speaks at the annual Online International Virtual Assistants Convention (http://www.oivac.com/), and also serves on an international committee looking at standards for the VA industry.For more information visit: http://www.execstress.com/ or phone +61-7-3375-5613